Disclaimer: Some readers may find the latter part of this post distressing as it talks about FGM (Excision).
Apologies for not posting in a few weeks. Everyone in village started planting once rainy season started, and all the functionnaires have left because school is out. So it’s a lot of nothing in village. Lucky for me my friends Ed and Rachel invited me to help facilitate their Girls Camp in Yako, a provincial capital about 60km away. I love working camps so this was a great way to get out village and do something productive.
30 rising 5e girls from three different middle schools attended the camp. We covered everything from periods to sex to decision making to study skills and also HIV/AIDS. The girls had a question and answer session with the three female facilitators, me Kelsey, and Rachel.
This camp was not without its challenges. It’s now Ramadan and some of our facilitators were not 100% because they were fasting. We also had HCNs refuse to do condom demonstrations because of the holiday. Apparently there is some sort of prohibition regarding condoms during Ramadan. PCVs are super comfortable doing condom demonstrations but it means more and has more staying power if it’s done by an HCN We also got some questions about excision (FGM). Those were heartbreaking because we were pretty sure that almost all the girls were excised (it’s very common in the North) and they were asking if having sex and giving birth hurt if you are excised. Feeling that we were unable to give a good response we asked one of our HCN facilitators to do it. He gave an answer that I was disappointed with. He said that if excision is done badly that those things can hurt, and that girls can have surgery to get it corrected. But when is excision ever done properly and who wants to go through surgery for that again? I wish PC had a better strategy to deal with excision and how to talk about it. I guess right now the only thing we can do is to implore that these girls do not excise their daughters. As wrong as excision is, and I want to be clear that I don’t condone it in any way there’s not much that PCVs can do about it. Also, behavior change is really hard, and it’s extraordinarily difficult for a bunch of foreigners to tell HCNs that what they are doing is wrong and they need to stop immediately when it has been going on for thousands of years.
I think that starting a dialogue is the first step. Excision is generally done secretly and I think that talking about it openly is a step in the right direction. I’m glad that this camp was able to start that dialogue and encourage girls to protect their daughters against this unfair practice.